CHEVY MENCS AT TALLADEGA TWO: Newman Second to Lead Chevrolet SS Contingent at Talladega
TALLADEGA, Ala. (Oct. 15, 2017) – Ryan Newman scored a second-place finish Sunday in the Alabama 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) race to lead Team Chevy’s efforts at Talladega Superspeedway. Newman’s No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS was one of 14 cars running at the end of the wild 188-lap, 500-mile race.
Newman started 27th and was one of a very few drivers to stay out of trouble. The race featured 11 caution periods for 47 laps and three red-flag periods. That enabled Newman to post his 12th top-10 finish at Talladega and 12th of the season.
In his final race as a full-time MENCS competitor at Talladega Superspeedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr., finished seventh in the No. 88 Mountain Dew Chevrolet SS. The race pole-winner led twice for seven laps.
Among Chevrolet’s drivers in the NASCAR Playoffs, Kyle Larson was 13th in the No. 42 First Data Chevrolet SS. The result was good enough to put him third in the series standings heading to next week’s elimination round at Kansas.
Chase Elliott is sixth in points despite a late-race crash in the No. 24 NAPA Chevrolet SS. He led three times for 26 laps and finished 16th. Seven-time MENCS champion, Jimmie Johnson, in the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS, is eighth in points leaving Talladega after being caught up in ‘The Big One’ and finishing 24th.
An early accident in the Alabama 500 left Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Cessna Chevy SS, 12th in the series’ standings.
Kasey Kahne was the other top-10 finisher for Team Chevy with a ninth-place effort in his No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS, giving Team Chevy three of the top 10 finishers overall.
Brad Keselowski (Ford) was the race winner, Trevor Bayne (Ford) finished third, Joey Logano (Ford) finished fourth, and Aric Almirola (Ford) rounded out the top-five.
The next race on the MENCS schedule is the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, which is the second elimination race of the 2017 MENCS Playoffs where four more drivers will be eliminated from championship competition. The race is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, Oct. 22.
POST RACE PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPTS:
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET SS – Finished 2nd
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by today's runner‑up in the Alabama 500, and that is none other than Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. Quite a race out there today. Walk us through the final few laps from your perspective, please.
RYAN NEWMAN: Yeah, that was about the only time I did race was the final few there. But a good run for the Caterpillar Chevrolet to get second. Wish we could have pulled it off. It's one of those deals where you stay out front and the caution comes out after you take the white, you look like a hero, but you start backing up to the guys behind you, and next thing you know you've got passed and then the caution comes out, so I kept my foot in it and did what I thought was right. I basically got double‑teamed and the 2 and the 22 got a good run past me. The 11 did a great job of getting me going at the start there; kind of reminded me of the old tandem days of drafting. But just not the end result that we wanted but a good performance, and we needed that after my screw‑up last weekend.
Q. There were three red flags today and 14 cars running at the end. I'm just wondering how to make these better races.
RYAN NEWMAN: Oh, you're worried about that?
Q. I'm wondering. Are you worried about it?
RYAN NEWMAN: I don't know what ‑‑ I don't know how to answer that because what do you call a better race, first of all?
Q. Well, I mean, it's sloppy.
RYAN NEWMAN: That's a matter of opinion. I mean, it is what it is. I don't think it's anything out of the ordinary or a big surprise for this type of racing. It's totally different than what we had last week and what we'll have next week. Again, it is what it is. I don't know that there's a desire to have a different product here at this type of racetrack.
Q. I was wondering there at the end where you got out there pretty far, was there any level of thought that you were going to have to block, but were you more worried about blocking or were you more worried about getting taken out?
RYAN NEWMAN: I was worried about it all. I was trying to maintain the lead, keep a distance, and block the best I could without getting myself turned around because you can over‑block and be the guy at fault. I just either did it right or didn't do it right, but either way I'm not in Victory Lane.
THE MODERATOR: Ryan, thanks for joining us. Good luck next week in Kansas
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 MOUNTAIN DEW CHEVROLET SS – Finished 7th
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Mountain Dew Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Not the result you wanted on your final trip around Talladega, but maybe one of your more adventurous runs around Talladega Superspeedway. Walk us through the race from your perspective.
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, we took off there at the start of the race and saw the car had pretty good speed. We got a speeding penalty and a couple of things lost us a lot of track position. We were able to get up through there and get it back and get up into the top three again, top two, sitting there chasing Blaney and Chase there. That was fun running around the top with those guys because they're the future of the sport. It was just fun to link up and have some fun with those guys.
And then, you know, just got lucky on those wrecks. Just things start flying around, I don't know, you just ‑‑ ain't nothing I'm doing, I'm just not getting hit, you know, and not losing control of my car. Just really luck.
But the last one knocked the right front end really bad and bent the splitter down about an inch and a half and knocked it on the racetrack, and when we got going there on that last restart, it just wouldn't go in the corners especially, so everybody around us was just wasting their time pushing us, and they sort of figured that out after a lap or two and decided to leave us alone, and we just kind of hung on there to get a seventh.
But I thought the car had enough to win before we bent the splitter down, and it was a great car all weekend. This has been a hell of a weekend for me, and I'm glad to be able to finish and finish well. That means a lot to me. I know a lot of folks came and traveled here to see us run, so I know they're disappointed we didn't win, but I'm glad they got to see us run the whole event, and hopefully they enjoyed it.
Q. I know wrecks can happen anywhere, but this was probably the biggest threat to your health remaining on the schedule. After walking out of here with your health intact, is there any sense of relief?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Absolutely. Had some trouble here in the past. I think that anyone who questions our desire to be here and compete this year and our desire to run hard and face can look at the risks that we took this afternoon, knowing that any of those crashes would have probably given me a bit of an injury that would have held me out of the rest of the season.
We definitely ‑‑ it's hypothetical, but I think it says a lot about being out there and competing, wanting to compete, showing that we want to compete, and working hard, racing hard. This was one that I was worried about, you know, in the back of my mind, I was a little concerned. But you can't win the race if you race scared, and I've raced scared here before, and you don't do well when that happens, so you have to block it out and just go out there and
take the risks and hope that it's just not your day to get in one of those accidents, and it wasn't.
I wish we could have seen what we could have done with a straight car at the end. We tried to push Brad into the lead, but the splitter was on the ground so bad, we got disconnected, and everyone literally went right around us, and it was downhill from there. But yeah, I was worried about this one, and you know, I'm glad we got through it.
Q. You had a lot of time in the car there the last few laps to sit. Did you let the moment wash over you, the enormity of it, or did you stay focused?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Hey, it's 110 degrees in there. Ain't nothing washing over you except your own sweat. I was sitting there cussing NASCAR the whole time if you want me to be honest with you. Like why are we sitting here, it's going to be like a three‑lap to the finish; why can't we at least coast around and get a green‑white‑checkered out of it. But I know that there's reasons to be sitting there, but it just is not the most comfortable situation.
Q. You said that you were glad just to finish but you knew your fans were disappointed. Do you feel any disappointment, and what do you feel about your chances to win in what's now kind of your last five races?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Well, I think we go to the racetrack with a positive attitude. We know we have won at some of these tracks coming up, and you just go in there with a good attitude and see how the weekend works out for you. You know, I don't think that we've lost hope on winning a race by any means with the rest of the year. We can't ‑‑ I wouldn't want a driver who felt that way, wouldn't want a team who felt that way, either. So, we'll go in there with a solid attitude and see how it works out for us.
I'm always disappointed when we don't run well at tracks I know we should, but we did run well today, but I know that everybody was probably ‑‑ is a little bit of air out of the bag there at the end to finish seventh. I know those folks were hoping we could put something together, and I know there's a lot of folks came here, particularly to see this race because it's the last one here. I hate to leave slightly disappointed, but hopefully they enjoyed everything else they saw. I mean, we ran as hard as we could, did the best we could.
Q. It's been such an emotional weekend for you, just coming to this track that has meant so much for you and your dad over the years, and you mentioned that it's really kind of starting to sink in that this is your last season, and this is the last time you're going to be at this track. Can you describe the wave of emotions this entire weekend and throughout the race?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, I really do owe a lot to this track and the support that we have had here from the fans, owe a lot to them. You know, it just has been a very fun place. When I was a little kid going to ‑‑ we got to go to a handful of racetracks throughout the year, and this was always a fun trip. There was a pay‑to‑ride go‑kart track down where the hotels were where all the drivers and everybody stayed, and me ‑‑ I'd get a hundred bucks from Dad maybe, and then Brad Means and me and Scotty Williams, Doug's son, and Bob Wickham's son Mike, a bunch of us would run over there and spend all our daddies' money riding go‑karts. We'd go over to the Hall of Fame and run around in that thing, just all over, looking at all the cool stuff in there.
And then during the race, we'd always pick on the folks that come to watch the wrecks. But me and the boys, we'd run around the garage looking at the cars that came in there, they were broke or wrecked or whatever, and they'd just bring them in there and park them and leave them. We'd be looking at all that.
Just so many good memories as a kid coming here, and that was back before hot passes and pit passes, garage passes. Man, you could run anywhere you wanted to go, and we were all over the place having fun and goofing off.
And then I got to come here ‑‑ this is the first place I really run any laps outside of a late model car. Dad called me at the dealership and asked me to come here. They were testing the V8 car for the XFINITY Series, they were getting rid of the V6's, so I drove his car with Dave Marcus, which was great, me and Dave and dad. That was 1994.
So, a lot of great memories here, and then obviously the career in Cup here, four in a row, all those things mean a lot to me. I hope to always have a great connection here, and trust me when I say that whatever the track needs from me, anytime they want anything, I'll be here to help promote and support this place no matter what the request is. They've done so much for me, and I want to remain very close.
Q. Dale, with this being your last plate race, you retire with 10 restrictor plate wins in your career. Does it mean anything to you that you'll go down as one of the best restrictor plate racers in the history of NASCAR?
DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Absolutely. Anytime anybody says you're the best at anything, it's an awesome feeling. I can't deny that it feels awesome to hear that. People consider you good at anything, it's a great feeling. I knew that I wasn't going to win 200 races and seven championships and do all those great things. I just wanted to come in here and be considered talented. But to be great at anything was beyond my imagination.
I appreciate people's compliments on my plate driving and the success we've had at all the plate races.
THE MODERATOR: Dale, thanks for all the time you gave us this weekend, and good luck next week in Kansas.
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET SS – Finished 2nd
ON THE RACE.
"I don't know that it was a good kind of crazy, but that's the problem we are in. Proud of the guys on this Caterpillar Chevrolet with RCR and ECR to do what we did. We tried to play it smart and in the end we were close, but not close enough. I got double-teamed with the No. 2 and the No. 22 (Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano) That was the difference."
DESCRIBE THE LAST FEW LAPS OF THAT RACE:
“We held them off longer than I expected. I couldn’t tell how much nose damage I had and I hadn’t led all day, so I didn’t know what to expect. I saw the No. 2 (Brad Keselowski) car in the mirror backing up and then he lost his draft and then he backed up again and he caught the No. 22 (Joey Logano). That was all it took for him to get a good run. I would have maybe played it differently and backed it up in hindsight, backed up to them in hindsight, but I don’t think it would have made a difference They were double-teaming me and you know it was still a good race to finish second with the Caterpillar Chevrolet.”
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 MOUNTAIN DEW CHEVROLET SS – Finished 7th
DESCRIBE THE RACING AND WHAT YOUR DAY WAS LIKE TODAY.
“Yeah, we got lucky. That was just luck being in the right place at the right time and not getting swept up in any of those wrecks. We had one there that knocked the splitter down really bad on the right-front and that is why we couldn’t do anything at the end. The car was just dragging the ground and wouldn’t go, wouldn’t take off, so it was a little wounded out there at the end. Still got a decent finish and came out of here in one piece.”
HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE THIS AS YOU START TO LOOK BACK ON THIS ONE.
“It’s been better than the last couple of trips here, the last couple of trips we had a lot of trouble in wrecks and hadn’t been able to come home with a decent finish. I would have loved to have won the race for all the fans that come out here. I know a lot of folks came to see this race just for the fact that it was my last plate race and trust me, I wanted to win it for all those folks more than myself, but just couldn’t get it done.”
IT LOOKED LIKE MAYBE YOU HAD A RUN THERE AT THE END. WE SAW THE DAMAGE ON THE RIGHT FRONT FROM THE LAST INCIDENT. DID THAT HURT YOU ON THAT FINAL RUN?
“Yeah, the splitter on the right front was about an inch and a half low. When I’d go in the corner, my splitter would just get tight and slow. I couldn’t really push anybody or get any runs going. And nobody wanted to push me because they could see I was struggling a little bit. So, nobody wanted to go with us. But we got lucky and missed a lot of wrecks there. Man, it’s real hard to get up there to keep that track position. It’s a real challenge. These plate races get harder and harder to win. Congratulations to Brad (Keselowski, race winner). His race car there, has got that cheers to Dale Jr. on it, and that’s pretty cool. It was nice of him to do. So, I was pulling for a lot of them out there if we couldn’t win it. There were a lot of friends out there. But man, it would have been nice. I thought was going to be okay. We got going on that restart and I went down into (Turn) 1 and it was hitting on that splitter and we could get shoved from behind and weren’t going anywhere. They were just flying by us. There was just nothing we could do.”
THIS WAS THE LAST PLATE RACE FOR YOU. WERE YOU SURPRISED YOU DIDN’T HAVE MORE HELP OUT THERE?
“Well, I thought we did when the car was fine. But they could see when it’s low-ended. When other cars have a momentum going by you, you go with that guy. We kind of stuck out like a sore thumb there at the end. But, there were a few times there where we could have used a little help and we didn’t have none. But, I’m not going to complain.”
TY DILLON, NO. 13 GEICO CHEVROLET SS – Finished 11th
“We were able to avoid a lot of the crashes today at Talladega and the GEICO Chevrolet was really fast. We suffered a little bit of nose damage early, but it wasn't anything that affected the car. I thought if we had a chance to work with another Chevrolet we would be able to get to the front, but I couldn't get any help from behind. We ended up 11th. It was a good day for our team, but I know our car was better than 11th. It’s just tough and it’s disappointing we couldn’t get any help from behind to make a run at it at the end.”
KYLE LARSON, NO. 42 FIRST DATA CHEVROLET SS – Finished 13th
ON THE LAST WRECK.
"I think the 24 got into the 19 and got him sideways and in to me. There are a lot of torn up cars, but we still finished 13th and maintained our points on the cutoff there. It would have been a worse day. But it also could have been better… could have won.
"I was glad we decided to race there in the second half. There was a lot of opportunities to get caught up in crashes. It was just crazy that a lot of the playoff guys, pretty much everybody except Brad (Keselowski) and Denny (Hamlin) got collected in wrecks. Pretty crazy day, but a typical Talladega.
"Just need to go to Kansas and have a solid race. A top-10 run will be all we need to do probably."
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS – Involved in a multi-car accident on Lap 173
“Really hard to tell what started it. I just saw the No. 38 turning down across the group and hooked me and sent me up into the wall. What we are trying to get to the bottom of is our spotter was informed to let us start working on the car and I guess there was some miscommunication there from NASCAR to our spotter and we may have lost some valuable points on pit road as a result. So, we’ve got to get to the bottom of that and find out what happened there.”
HOW ARE YOU?
“I’m OK. It knocked the wind out of me for sure. But the thing I’m most concerned about is that there was a cue given to our spotter for our guys to start working on the car. We went out and made a lap and advanced quite a few spots as a result. Now it looks like NASCAR is trying to take that away from us. Us and a few other cars heard the cue to allow the guys to start working when the red flag had finished but we didn’t get the cue on pit row. I’m still not clear on what all went on. I think we’re in a bad situation as a result. Hopefully NASCAR can look at it and we can get this rectified.”
HOW VALUABLE ARE THE STAGE POINTS YOU PICKED UP IN HINDSIGHT?
“Definitely valuable. That was part of the plan coming in here, and I think the whole field kind of had that same mindset. We had a very fast Lowe’s Chevrolet even with it torn up after a couple of little incidents on the track. We were still in there mixing it up for the win. I hate that we’re not on the track now. Whatever is going on with this red-flag issue certainly could hurt us.”
JAMIE McMURRAY, NO. 1 CESSNA CHEVROLET SS – Involved in multi-car accident on Lap 24
WAS THIS AN EXAMPLE OF THE PERILS OF TALLADEGA?
“Yeah. We wanted to pit a couple of laps earlier, and you’re somewhat dependent on the spotters to tell you when you’re going to pit. You assume everyone is working as a group. It was my fault. I assumed that they said the 18 was going to let me in, so I thought we were all going to pit. I didn’t even know where the 77 was. When I got on the brakes, I thought we were all coming to pit road as a group. I’ll take the blame for that. I just kind of assumed we were coming to pit road right there. Obviously not everyone was”
THIS OBVIOUSLY HURTS YOUR PLAYOFF HOPES. HOW DO YOU PERSEVERE AND MOVE FORWARD TO KANSAS NEXT WEEK?
“There’s nothing you can do about it. It’s part of Talladega. We know you can come out of here with a lot of points and be a winner or you can be in the position we are right now. We’ll go to Kansas and do our best. I’m sure I won’t be the only Playoff driver disappointed today.”
RIS NASCAR Editor. Has been with RIS since the middle 90's. Writes on each of the three main series of NASCAR.